It’s already a hot topic in the USA and now UK communications watchdog Ofcom is holding a consultation about the issue of Net Neutrality. Anyone can respond to the consultation by filling in the on-line form available here.
Though Ofcom hasn’t had any actual complaints yet, there are moves by other countries to regulate what ISPs and other players can and cannot do.
The whole issue stems from the point that bandwidth isn’t free (though end user connections are on flat rates), therefore some ISPs use technologies such as ‘traffic shaping’ which can slow content down to certain customers who are paying les than other customers or those customers who are on business plans.
Certain content (or application) providers such as the BBC or Google tend to be used by lots of customers and so there is a train of thought that they should contribute to the costs of delivering their content to customers who are using access through an ISP. Many content providers (including oddly Google) are against this and they say as long as they have big enough pipes for them to provide the content, it’s up to the ISPs to get it to their users.
ISPs could restrict access to certain content, indeed they could do content deals with certain companies and give their customers unrestricted access to that while limiting access to content providers who they haven’t made deals with. So customers would get a good experience with those companies that had done deals with the ISP but a poor experience with providers that hadn’t made any deals.
In traditional broadcasting, content providers pay conveying charges to the people that provide the actual service (so someone like Sky may actually charge a fee to Virgin for each user who watches their content, Virgin actually charge a fee to delivery the content to the customer from Sky). ISPs potentially want the same kind of system for content providers delivering content across their networks, while content providers want the the net the be a neutral delivery platform and level playing field for all.
Ofcom know that ISPs already traffic shape for certain customers or services but want to know what people at large think before regulating.